Journal article Open Access

The threat posed by the neoliberal legal-institutional architecture to the democratic process: the investment protection treaties and their impacts

Echaide, Javier; Castro, Jose Esteban; Tagliavini, Damiano

WATERLAT-GOBACIT Network Policy Briefs (

There exists an international legal-institutional structure to protect foreign investments that involves some 3200 international investment treaties. This brought about an increasing number of legal claims against national States, which are presented by transnational companies and investors before international arbitral tribunals that invoke the protection of such investment treaties. Some of these tribunals are implemented by the World Bank’s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), which is the most frequently used mechanism in the system. This legal-institutional architecture covers all aspects of a country’s economy where there is participation of foreign private capital, which is particularly important in cases of privatization of public companies. Therefore, almost all economic sectors become affected by this regime of protection of transnational capital, including essential public services such as water and sanitation.

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